I’m testing Skribit, and I just noticed that there’s a request to talk about my header image. It’s taken from a shot of XCOR’s LOX/methane engine, which was just named one of TIME Magazine’s “Inventions of the Year” for 2007. It’s a prototype built under subcontract for NASA; descendents of it will one day land on the Moon and on Mars. Yes, it looks like a death ray! Those diamond patterns are called “Mach diamonds” and result from the supersonic speeds of the rocket exhaust. And since XCOR is located in the Mojave desert, the exhaust kicks up a lot of dust!
Why methane? Because you can find it or make it using space-based resources. In particular, you can use the Martian atmosphere and water ice from the Martian poles to make both methane and LOX (liquid oxygen). Living off the land in space is the only way to really establish a presence off this planet. Imagine if Lewis and Clark had had to leave St. Louis carrying all the food they were going to eat on their three-year voyage! Impossible.
XCOR is one of the most exciting “New Space” companies that are trying to rekindle the dreams of living and working in space… dreams which NASA has tried to bury under layers of bureaucracy, risk aversion, and Congressional pork. I was the first outside investor in XCOR in 2000, and remain a member of its board of directors. Check out their Website; lots of good news, and the company is always hiring!